At the end of the first days play in Johannesburg,India had batted themselves into a decent position. The score read 255/5,their position looking even more robust because their captain was still at the crease. The stage was set for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to not just set his record right in conditions outside the subcontinent. This was his chance to ride home the advantage for his team. It wasnt to be though as Dhoni perished,poking at a Vernon Philander delivery leaving him. One that could have been left alone. His dismissal for 19 also set in the rot as India lost their four wickets for not much.
It wasnt the only time Dhoni set off a collapse or got out just when the situation called out for him to play a knock of significance. At Durban in the first innings,he and Ajinkya Rahane had helped India regain control with a 50-run stand for the fifth wicket. They had also taken India past the 300-run mark.
Then Dhoni,batting on 24,went chasing after another length delivery outside his off-stump with his unique walking shot. This time from a charged-up Steyn. Yet again the Indian skipper had fallen in the same fashion as has become customary of him in conditions where the ball moves around. The most disappointing of the lot was reserved for when India needed Dhoni the most. On the last day of the tour with the visitors hanging by the skin of their teeth to save the second Test and ensure that they walk away with a 0-0 verdict which would have been akin to a win for India.
The South African pacers had just finished their umpteenth spell on the day. Manning the attack now was Robin Peterson bowling from over the wicket into the rough,and hardly turning a ball. Just then Dhoni decided to use his forearms and muscle a length delivery outside his leg-stump over the mid-wicket fielder. Not only was the shot not on,it was also uncalled for considering the situation,especially with Rahane fighting tooth and nail at the other end to keep Indias hopes alive. The ball only went as far as Alviro Petersen at mid-wicket. Dhoni could only throw his head sideways in despair. Soon after,the Indian tail lived up to their reputation and was blown away.
Having dropped Ashwin for the second Test,the onus was on Dhoni to take up even more responsibility. But he had failed to do so,averaging 21 across both Tests. Just like he had in England and Australia,where he averaged below 30,Dhoni struggled to raise his game for his teams sake.
The most disappointing aspect probably was the fact that Dhoni kept getting out pretty much in the same manner.
While there were a number of impressive performances from a number of young batsmen,the much-required captains knock never came. Though he didnt drop any catches,Dhoni was also scratchy behind the stumps. India might leave South Africa with a number of young batsmen having established their credentials in foreign soil. Its high time that their captain,whose only overseas ton came in Faisalabad back in 2006,did so as well.